"I Gave Birth Under the Stars": One Mom's Story

pregnant outsideMore and more women are becoming interested in giving birth outside in nature. It's the ultimate in honoring and trusting our abilities, and while it is not for everyone, when it is right for someone, it's magical. Marnie McKnight-Favell birthed her daughter outside in nature, and she shared with us how she made the decision and what it was like. 


Of course, all of our birth stories are magical -- whether we gave birth in a hospital and had a C-section or at home in a tub -- because it is the way we brought life into the world, and our journeys to do so all take different turns. Sometimes I think baby is the only one who really knows how she will be born.

In learning about McKnight-Favell's outdoor birth, it made me even more in awe of our powers and abilities, and the magic that comes with our journey to motherhood. She shares all the incredible details.

What made you decide to have an outdoor birth? How early on in pregnancy did you know you wanted to have an outdoor birth?
For me, it was a very primal and instinctual decision. When I found out that I was pregnant, I began projecting my imagination and vision into birth, and I was in a garden in my visualizations. Probably within the first or second month, as I rode out morning sickness. I did not personally know anyone else who did it, nor did I know that it was a "thing" at all. Later in my pregnancy I began to watch videos about women who traveled to the Red Sea to deliver their babies in the sea where dolphins attend the birthing event, and I realized how powerful birthing in a natural environment could be.     

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Do you think women in general need to trust our bodies more?
I always think that there's room for women to find a deeper sense of resonance and instinct for our bodies. I still discover that there are aspects of my body that nobody taught me to "read" or study. It is evident how far we have strayed within society from the tribal cultures of our ancestry, where young girls were always exposed to women’s "mysteries," taught about our cyclical nature, how to heal and treat our bodies for health as well as natural beauty.

There is a taught culture of fear for women -- all people, truly -- but women tend to go through more intense life processes such as childbirth than men. I believe that the fear-based mindset is deeply ingrained and perpetuated and that most people/women often don’t realize that there are alternatives to what they are taught about remaining in the dark about their bodies, physical processes, and the process of birth in particular.     

How did you make your outdoor birth most comfortable for you?
We designed and built a small birthing tent, like a temple in which I could complete my labor and deliver my daughter. It was a prefab wrought iron patio gazebo with fabric panels, and we assembled it on the patio outside of our back door. The midwife’s recommendation was to establish a womb-like or cave-like space, based on her decades of home birth experience with women and awareness of laboring women’s sensory needs. Inside the tent, we had a birthing tub (which was a kidney-shaped agricultural trough) filled with rose petals, a couple of tables with altars set up (with sacred artifacts, flowers, and crystals), [and] a small table with a lamp that the birthing team could utilize or see instruments if necessary.      

Set the scene -- where were you outside? What was around you? What do you remember about being outside? What time of day was it and how long did labor last?
When I awoke on a Sunday morning, I felt that labor had begun. It slowly developed and organized throughout the day, and I kept myself busy with aesthetic tasks -- I went to the market and bought fresh flowers to arrange at home, I repaired a bracelet with my jewelry kit, I cooked food.

As the day went on, I labored both outdoors and in, and I walked around a lot beneath the night sky. It was a full moon (a blue moon, actually) and there was a lunar eclipse on the night my daughter was born. I had a few emotional moments being outside and my senses extremely heightened to the natural sounds and the view of the sky. I spent a couple of hours indoors during my transitions, and when I had progressed to a time when delivery appeared imminent, it was after midnight. We went outside and I got into the birthing tub at that time. I was in that tub for about two hours, maybe a bit more.

During that time of the strongest surges, in between the pushing there was a stone silence, and at that time, the sounds of the natural world would be evident. I could hear crickets and frogs and locusts outside of the tent. It will always remain with my awareness. And when I was overcome with the pushing surges, I was unaware of anything at all. It felt like I was being delivered between worlds. It was surprising how much of the experience involved sensory feedback on a deep internal level, and how there was virtually no conversation with anyone unless necessary. The midwife was silent until she needed to remind me of the part where I was in labor so I would remember about a breath she showed me, or for the doula to recommend that I try a different position with my arms to maintain some strength for delivery. There was little to no external thinking or awareness.  

How did you prepare if you couldn't birth outside? Did you have a backup plan?
This conversation happened a couple of times during my pregnancy, and although late August was when I was to deliver my daughter, we considered inclement weather or unseasonable temperature drops. Additionally, we were advised that because of the dynamics of birth, sometimes delivery happens in unexpected places, so it was recommended that we establish a couple of "landing sites" inside the house in addition to the primary outside birthing area.

So on the ground floor we had a small inflatable pool to be used as a backup birthing tub, and upstairs we dressed the bed with shower curtains, etc., in the event that I ended up delivering in bed. And we also have a bathtub next to the bedroom in case of a water birth upstairs. You could say we were extremely prepared!    

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What would be one or two words to describe your outdoor birth?
I always say shamanic. It was otherworldly while extremely internal and cosmic. I felt like a space for the Divine was wide open and we were inside of it. And I was in an altered state after I transitioned.     

What would you tell other women considering an outdoor birth?
As with all parenting and life decisions, do your research and learn as much as you possibly can about how to create the scene for your plan. Consult with various care providers if you are utilizing a professional birth provider, and find someone with whom you really resonate and trust. Find as many supportive contributions to your plan, while also taking the time each day to tune into yourself, your sense of self-trust, and your baby as well. Understand that you are in communication with your baby-to-be, and set the intention to communicate with your baby on a regular basis.

I spoke with my daughter throughout my pregnancy, but especially towards the time I was preparing to deliver her. I filtered out any and all dissonant or fear-based media. And I personally chose not to discuss my birth plan widely. I don't know that I’d recommend that to women, because whatever helps you to feel empowered (be it maintaining privacy or shouting your intention from the rooftops) is the thing that will work for you. But I have found, time and again, that when I resonate with a truth that is different from mainstream thinking, I do best when I hold it close to my chest and entrust it with a small and intimate circle. Very few people knew about my plan. And I didn’t have to defend it often, nor did I have to second-guess my decision. I trusted myself.     

Was there anything that would deter your outside birth? Like what if it was raining? Or middle of the night? What would you tell women wanting an outside birth who then had weather/elements not in their favor? Is this only for Spring and Summer babies? 
I do honestly feel as though the climate needs to support an outdoor birth. It doesn’t seem as though it would be safe for a baby to be born in an environment that was too drafty or cold, since babies cannot regulate their body heat. And so knowing that my due date was in a summer month, my plan seemed realistic. But if I had been due in winter, I would not have considered it. If it was raining, we probably would have needed to revert to our indoor plan. Birth did happen in the middle of the night, but in my case the environment was fabricated to be indoors while being situated outside.  

If a woman wanted to give birth when elements are not in her favor, something to consider is whether she has resources to travel to a place warm enough to have her outside delivery. Many women plan their travel to the Red Sea to deliver their babies in the sea, which astounds and awes me. If it’s winter and you live in a cold climate, it’s not a realistic plan. I always considered whether my birth plan would be safe for my newborn baby, and I consulted with an experienced homebirth midwife who confirmed that what I was envisioning was safe.

So my one caveat is that while I do feel strongly about birth choice and the empowerment of women, what we are doing is bringing forth life, and we must always uphold the integrity, safety, and sanctity of our baby’s arrival. There are many beautiful ways to create a natural and intimate birth environment that honor a safe arrival for a baby.


Image via iStock.com/nattanan726

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